Eltham is a unique marriage between a medieval and Tudor palace and a 1930s millionaire’s mansion. From the 14th to the 16th century it was an important royal palace, where monarchs often stayed and hunted in the surrounding parks. After centuries of neglect, Eltham was leased to Stephen and Virginia Courtauld in 1933, who built an up-to-the-minute house here that incorporated the great hall. The result was a masterpiece of 20th-century design.
We are delighted to be working once again with English Heritage to bring you our Loves Labours Lost.
The original palace was given to Edward II in 1305 by the Bishop of Durham, Anthony Bek, and used as a royal residence from the 14th to the 16th century. According to one account, the incident which inspired Edward III‘s foundation of the Order of the Garter took place here. As the favourite palace of Henry IV, it played host to Manuel II Palaiologos, the only Byzantine emperor ever to visit England, from December 1400 to mid-February 1401, with a joust being given in his honour. There is still a jousting tilt yard where we will be performing our show.
Edward IV built the Great Hall in the 1470s, and the future Henry VIII & Edward VI grew up here and the Palace was often used by the Tudor Courts for Christmas celebrations. The courtier Roger Aston was keeper of the little park at Eltham in 1610 and built four bridges for the convenience of James VI and I. In the 1630s, by which time the palace was no longer used by the royal family, Sir Anthony van Dyck was given the use of a suite of rooms as a country retreat.
The current house was built in the 1930s on the site of the original, and incorporates its Great Hall, which boasts the third-largest hammerbeam roof in England. Fragments of the walls of other buildings remain visible around the gardens, and the 15th-century bridge still crosses the moat.